Can someone please explain to me the difference between meaning and usage of words drudgery and travail in nuance?

Context: I am writing an email to a mental health worker and I want to emphasize how hard, exhausting, and perhaps even ungrateful her work appears to me.

Brief internet search did not help me much because both Merriam-Webbster and Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus simply list them as synonyms.

  • Before you get to the bottom it gives definitions and while similar, they’re different. – Jim Jan 25 '17 at 4:39
  • 1
    Drudgery is cleaning the toilet. Travail is using buckets to empty the cesspool. – Hot Licks Jan 25 '17 at 4:39
  • @HotLicks So.. would either of them be appropriate to use in the email in my context then? – Vlad Jan 25 '17 at 4:43
  • That's for you to decide. – Hot Licks Jan 25 '17 at 13:10

Travail is more physical in that you may experience pain doing something that causes travail. Drudgery on the other hand is something that's just extremely boring. For example, reading a highly technical book can be a mental drudgery, but it's not travail because doing that does not cause you physical pain. Menial work that involves a lot of physical effort, however, is an example of travail.

Example #1:

Gosh, this book is such a drudgery! I just can't keep reading it anymore.

Example #2:

Factory workers in third-world countries are vastly underpaid while their hard work is nothing short of pure travail.

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